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It’s in the bag, Internationally speaking

It-in-the-bagIt’s in the bag, Internationally speaking

Worthy Matron Carletha Shaw of Lady Bernice 657 poses with two young Bahamian girls who received school supplies.

Worshipful Master Dawson Smith of Amos Temple 34 presents back to school supplies to the director of the Willie Mae Pratt Center for Girls in Nassau.

Sisters Charmaine Cooper and Yolonda Reed of Lady Bernice 657 ready to fill book bags with supplies.

By Yolonda Reed

Children in Broward County are entering their third week of school and parents who did not take advantage of the sales at department stores, will find that the prices for basic school supplies have skyrocketed. From about mid-July, stores offered back-to-school deals on everything from paper, pens, pencils and crayons to back packs, school uniforms and computers. During the weeks leading up to school, parents could find two pocket-three prong folders for 10 cents, 150-count filler paper for as low as 25 cents and 24-pack crayons for 50 cents. Smart shoppers loaded up on the advertised limits.

Unfortunately for parents and students living in neighboring, economically disadvantage countries, five dollar book bags and one-cent highlighters deals are not offered as a part of back-to-school sales.  Many parents from Caribbean countries travel to the United States to escape the high price tags of imported goods in exchange for the lucrative cost savings offered in the good ole’ U S of A.

Two years ago, members of Amos Temple 34 of International Free and Accepted Modern Masons, Incorporated in Nassau, Bahamas assessed the need of the families in the New Providence area and attempted to put together a Back to School Book Bag Drive to alleviate some of the financial stress of families living below standards.  While their efforts were noble, the lack of affordable book bags and supplies in stores on their island limited their ability to reach far into the community.

Summer 2014, help came to Amos Temple 34 in the form of a partnership with an Eastern Star chapter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The sisters of Lady Bernice 657 raised funds to secure and ship over 500 fully-stocked book bags to the island of Nassau, Bahamas to support the New Providence community, thus starting an International Book Bag Drive between two countries.

“I participate in Book Bag Drives in South Florida because we have a lot of children living in poverty here.  But, poverty here is very different from poverty in Third World countries, a lot different.  Seeing is believing. We, people in the United States, really do not know poverty.”

— Carletha Shaw, President, Lady Bernice 657

Life in the Bahamas is very different.  It is an import country meaning that 95 percent of all goods purchased by consumers are imported from other countries. Importing means that these products and goods are heavily taxed.  For example, a 32-count case of bottled water in the US costs as little as $4.00 while this same case of water costs about $10 in the Bahamas.

Being able to continue the

international partnership for a second year had its challenges as the Book Bag Drive was originally scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. Inclimate weather from Tropical Storm Erika forced a delay, but seven uncertain days later, the weather was agreeable and the International Book Bag Drive moved forward. In addition to giving out book bags and sup-plies, each primary student was given their own personal book from a series of Dr. Seuss titles to emphasize the importance of literacy.

Other highlights from this second year were that 100 book bags and supplies were provided to students at Allage High School located on the smaller Bahamian island, Andros, and 30 book bags and supplies were delivered to the Willie Mae Pratt Center for Girls in Nassau. While the Bahamian government and special grant dollars primarily finance the Pratt Center, the facility still has many unfunded needs.

The two leaders of Amos Temple 34 and Lady Bernice 657 vowed to expand their current partnership with this school to continue to meet their unmet needs.

“This International Book Bag Drive is special to me because of the camaraderie of a lodge and chapter from two different countries finding a way to collectively support the vision of our international organization— truth, charity and loving kindness.”

-— Brother Dawson Smith, Worshipful Master, Amos Lodge 34.

Plans are already underway for next summer’s Book Bag

Drive.  Amos Temple 34 of Nassau, Bahamas and Lady Bernice 657 of Fort Lauderdale, Florida anticipate extending their efforts to additional islands of the Bahamas, like Freeport.

If you would like more information or to support the efforts of this International Book Bag Drive, please contact Carletha B. Shaw at

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    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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